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Mindfulness Matters in Marriage — and Roller-Skating

Are you are wondering what marriage and roller-skating have in common? Roller-skating is only for kids, right? No. And married people are adults? Most of the time, but not always. I’ve been roller-skating for decades as an adult. In my personal life and in my work as a therapist, I’ve noticed that no matter how mature we’ve become, a child inside of us often surfaces.

A few months ago, I had an awful skating accident. I lost my balance and fell on my back. This happened because I’d lost my mind, in effect; I had stopped paying attention. That can occur as we blissfully glide along and let our thoughts drift. Staying balanced when skating means remembering: keep knees bent, back straight, lean a bit forward — every moment. But I forgot.

While I was laying on the floor, helpless, someone offered to unlace my skates. “No, I want to skate,” I said, in deep denial. I’d fallen before, but not like this.

My husband had to come to take me home because I was in too much pain to drive. The x-ray revealed a fracture.

Professional Help Promotes Progress

After a few months of appointments with a physical therapist, she said, “Contact me again after you go roller-skating.” She looked too young to have a professional job. When I was her age, maybe I’d just go for it, but we grow cautious with age. I’d expected her to say “don’t risk it.”

Before the accident, my skates stayed in my car’s trunk, ready for weekly skate-to-music sessions for adults at a large rink a half hour’s drive from home. After the accident, the skates were stored in the garage.

I missed skating but was frightened. Some time passed before I brought the skates inside. A week or so later, I put them on and glided around the house — knees bent, back straight, leaning slightly forward — for a couple of minutes. So far, so good.

The night before I planned to skate again, I told my husband, “I’m afraid. Maybe I shouldn’t go.” His concern was tangible. Consequently, I felt more ready to take the risk.

How Mindfulness Matters in Skating and Marriage

When we coast along and stop paying attention, mishaps happen. The pain spouses experience from a thoughtless comment or deed can be short-lived if spouses are mindful about repairing a rupture. But if they continue to mindlessly hurt each other’s feelings, a crack can occur in the relationship’s foundation. With professional help, partners can learn to mend the rupture, restore trust, and learn to create a healthier, more mindful relationship.

Just as my pain broke through my denial about my severe injury, spouses who need help to restore their relationship first need to recognize their emotional aches before they can stop telling themselves that nothing’s amiss.  

About Being Vulnerable

When I told my husband I was afraid, he listened without giving advice. His acceptance was just what I needed so as to feel more confident. The next day I drove to the rink, not sure whether to sit and watch others skate around the huge shiny floor, or to join them. 

Sharing feelings and having them accepted can bring a sense of relief. The process also fosters intimacy. Yet many people hold back from sharing feelings they’re not comfortable with while pressure builds inside them.

For example, Nora’s doctor told her that she had a type of slow-growing cancer that was too small for concern now but might require surgery at some point. He advised her to return in six months for an evaluation. When she told her husband the facts, he was supportive. But she didn’t tell him how she felt: petrified. “I didn’t want him to worry or to burden him,” she said. I encouraged Nora to share her feelings with him, “because that’s what spouses are for.”

About Setting Limits

At the rink once again, I put on my skates. I wasn’t going to do anything fancy, i.e., risky. No crossovers, 180 degree turns, or skating backwards. No dancing on skates. As an extra precaution, I strapped on a cushion to protect my back, just in case.  

As I exited the rink for a break after fifteen minutes of blessedly upright skating, I let out a sigh of relief. An older man who was taking off his skates at a nearby table looked at me questioningly. I told him I was being careful. Him too. He said that he’d recently had a double knee replacement. Done for the day, he added, “You have to know your limits.”

Yes, I thought. Know your limits. Set boundaries to protect ourselves from getting hurt. In marriage too. Respect your limits, and your partner’s. Communicate what you will or not tolerate, whether it be cursing, smoking inside the house, disclosing your private information to others, emotional or physical abuse, or something else.  

Staying Mindful in Marriage

All marriages have ups and downs. We’re more likely to slip into unhelpful interactions  when we’ve been coasting along so comfortably that our attention drifts. Being mindful in marriage means staying tuned into what each of us needs now and later in order to keep the relationship thriving. Many couples stay mindful by holding a weekly marriage meeting. Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love:30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, explains step by step just how to hold these brief, gentle, loosely structured conversations. The meetings foster intimacy, romance, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.

I needed time to be away from the rink before I felt safe enough to return. I had to figure out where I went wrong so I could be proactive if I went back.   

Similarly, in marriage sometimes spouses need time apart to regroup after an upset in their relationship. Usually, a short time, maybe long enough for a solo walk in nature to clear one’s mind; or perhaps a different way to gain perspective. Getting some distance can help us feel more confident and safe about being together again, assuming that basic compatibility, trust and commitment are there. It’s fine to zone out, but not for too long. Just long enough to decide how you’ll do your part to create a relationship that fulfills both of you emotionally, spiritually, physically, and materially.    

Mindfulness Matters in Marriage — and Roller-Skating

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Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2019). Mindfulness Matters in Marriage — and Roller-Skating. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
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Last updated: 2 Feb 2019 (Originally: 3 Feb 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 2 Feb 2019
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